ASSAP: Paranormal Research
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ASSAPThe ASSAP website changes on an almost daily basis. This may not be apparent if you only look at the home or news pages. However, 'under the bonnet' things change a lot. This is particularly true of paranormal research tips and hints. New information from research and researchers is incorporated as soon as it arrives.

Though the main purpose of this paranormal blog page is to point out recent changes and provide some background to them, the blog will also include some comments of general interest to the paranormal research community.

31 Oct 2007: Halloween!

Today is the day when long-held tradition dictates that friends of paranormal researchers will say 'I expect you're going out looking for ghosts tonight'. To which the standard reply is 'No, I'm watching TV with the lights off, to keep those trick or treaters away!' Halloween may not be as special to serious paranormal researchers as many, particularly the media, seem to imagine but it nevertheless generates huge interest in anomalous phenomena.

Since there is no 'Paranormal Day' or 'Ghost Week' (perhaps there should be), Halloween is the time of year when the paranormal briefly takes centre stage. Of course, the festival, which is huge in the US and becoming bigger every year in the UK, is not terribly serious. It is more like a tribute to Hollywood horror movies than a celebration of real paranormal investigation. But we, who benefit from the increased interest, should not really carp! If it prompts just a few people to join serious paranormal research we should be thankful.

29 Oct 2007: Whatever happened to ectoplasm?

In the latest Fortean Times (FT229, 35-36) there is an article on ectoplasm. This mysterious substance used to be exuded from mediums in the 1930s. It was supposed to be responsible for seance room phenomena, like apports. However, when it was eventually analysed it was found to consist on muslin or cheese cloth! Ectoplasm supposedly didn't survive this revelation and vanished. Or did it?

Amazingly, ectoplasm has recently made a comeback. No longer exuded by mediums, it is frequently found on photos! Like orbs, it is not seen usually at the time of exposure. Modern ectoplasm is certainly not cheesecloth, looking like thin wispy smoke or steam that often appears to glow or shine. So what is it?

One clue is that modern 'ectoplasm' has occurred more frequently since the advent of digital cameras, just like orbs. When digital cameras appeared, objects that used to be too close to the camera to be seen were now visible, illuminated by its flash. Dust and insects became orbs! Meanwhile the photographer's own breath, visible on dark cold nights, and any smoke hanging around, were also illuminated to become - ectoplasm! There may be real paranormal ectoplasm somewhere but most photos purporting to show it are, in fact, the photographer's own breath!

26 Oct 2007: The paranormal and what equipment manuals don't tell you

It is easy to find information on how equipment works normally. But what about when odd things crop up? A camera manual may tell you how to take great photos but fail to mention those 'orb' things entirely (which is a great pity as it would have saved everyone a lot of trouble!). The manual for your dictaphone may well fail to mention that long-play mode means a very restricted frequency range, which tends to make random noise sound like EVP. If you see a face in the background trees in a digital photo, is it a ghost or just pixelation?

Unfortunately, such circumstances are a frequent source of paranormal reports. So investigators need to find out this information themselves. Good sources of such information are keen amateurs (such as photographers, electronics enthusiasts, etc), technical / science websites and manufacturers (not forgetting ASSAP, of course!).

26 Oct 2007: Who are the ghosts?

When investigators look into hauntings they frequently do historical research on the site to try to identify who the ghost might be. There are a number of assumptions implicit here that are not really supported by the witness evidence. These include:

  • ghosts cause hauntings (see below - 24 Oct)
  • ghosts must be former inhabitants or visitors to the site
  • ghosts are spirits

In fact, few cases of haunting even involve sightings of apparitions. Without a good sighting of an apparition, an 'identification' is little more than speculation. Even when ghosts are seen well, there is no logical reason to think that they will be someone associated with the site. That is an assumption based on the idea that ghosts are spirits. Interesting though historical research of a haunted location might be, it is unlikely to explain the reason for a haunting. It would be better to concentrate on trying to find out if previous occupants of the site had similar paranormal experiences and, in particular, if some didn't!

24 Oct 2007: Do ghosts cause hauntings?

In the dictionary definition of a haunting, it is generally assumed to be something that a ghost 'does' or is 'the cause of'. In real life investigations, things are different! Apparitions are not even witnessed in many cases of haunting. In fact, a haunting seems to consist of a number of typical symptoms of which apparitions are only one. While there is a good evidence for ' hauntings' , there is no obvious evidence* to suggest that apparitions are the cause, or even required. It is an assumption based on the idea that ghosts are spirits. The evidence, instead, suggests that apparitions are a non-essential symptom of a haunting. This does not mean that hauntings are not paranormal just that the traditional idea that they are caused by ghosts is not a justified assumption.

Perhaps we need a new definition of haunting. How about: "a series of unusual events, generally at a particular location, which are not immediately explainable by those witnessing them and therefore often ascribed to paranormal agencies"?

* Apparitions are generally reported to be silent, not interacting with their environment. They are not reported to be seen moving objects, knocking walls or moving in sync with ghostly footsteps! In other words, they are not 'caught' producing the other symptoms of the haunting!

24 Oct 2007: Weird glowing shapes - not refraction after all!

The weird glowing shapes seen when water droplets get on the lens of a camera are not caused by refraction after all. Refraction would merely distort the image a bit without giving the glowing effect and gross distortion. A better solution is total internal reflection within the water droplet. Light comes into the droplet and, at certain angles, is reflected at the lens/water and water/air boundaries. By bouncing around in the droplet, the glow is produced. It explains why the effect is sensitive to the specific angle of the light source to the camera lens.

Main page updated: Weird glowing shapes in photos

19 Oct 2007: UFO Gallery added

There is a big difference between seeing a UFO and discovering one on a photo you took earlier. With so many photos being taken these days, there is a big increase in UFOs only discovered in a picture some time after the photo was taken. In many cases, such UFOs are common objects that you would expect in the sky (like birds, aircraft, balloons) which were simply not noticed at the time of exposure. Usually, the UFO is so small in the photo that it is hard to make out what it is. A UFO Gallery has now been created (and will be extended over time) showing such UFOs as they might be reported and also what they really are. Try comparing these photos to allegedly authentic UFO photos elsewhere on the web.

New page added: UFO Gallery

18 Oct 2007: How do investigators identify ghosts?

This is a fascinating question and yet one that few people discuss or write about. It seems to amount to looking at the history of a building and seeing if anyone fits the, usually vague, description (if any!) of the apparition. However, in a great many hauntings, there aren't even any sightings of apparitions at all. Indeed, most hauntings consist of a few odd noises and apparent object movement with no obvious connection to any kind of ghost at all. And yet ghost are confidently 'identified' in a lot of cases. It's all very odd!

Further reading : See recording ghosts.

Woodpecker in a tree17 Oct 2007: Flying photographer!

Take a look at this photo of a woodpecker in a tree. It is a Great Spotted Woodpecker, if you are interested. The bird is in the top branches of a tree which has lost its leaves. The question is - where was the photographer when they took the photo? It appears that the photographer was either in a nearby tree or flying at the same height as the woodpecker! In fact, the photographer was firmly on the ground, pointing the camera up at the bird. The illusion is one of perspective. The branch is actually leaning outwards from the vertical and so is the woodpecker! So the bird is parallel with the camera lens. It looks upright because there are no true verticals visible to compare it with and we expect it to stand upright! It illustrates one of the many anomalous oddities that ordinary photos can throw up without any need of orbs or ghostly figures!

New page added: Strange photos

15 Oct 2007: Are EVP voices recorded below 300 Hz paranormal?

It has been suggested that 300 Hz is the lower frequency limit of human speech so that any voice recorded below that must be a paranormal EVP. Although telephony assumes a minimum frequency of 300 Hz, parts of the human voice go much lower than this. A new experiment has been added to the EVP Gallery in which a normal human voice has components down as low as 130 Hz (and lower frequencies have been reported elsewhere). The '300 Hz' test does not, therefore, appear a good way to decide if an EVP is paranormal.

Main page updated: EVP Gallery

12 Oct 2007: Limited frequency range on sound recorders adversely affects paranormal research

It has emerged that some paranormal researchers may be using sound recorders with a very limited frequency range (upper limit 3000 Hz or less). This may cause random noise to sound more like voices (due to a limited spectrum envelope) and could even render familiar voices unrecognisable (so implying there was 'someone else' - a ghost? - present at a vigil!). Indeed, a sound composed of several different voices could sound like just one voice using a tight spectrum envelope. Most recorders are capable of a better frequency range than this (5000 Hz or higher is recommended) if they are set to high quality / short play (rather than low quality and / or long play).

Main pages updated: Analyzing EVP, Recording EVP

Comment: Some people claim that the most convincing EVP voices are often obtained with the most modest equipment. Similarly, more orbs are frequently recorded with lower specification cameras. The problem is that some of the 'voices' or 'orbs' obtained in this way may simply be artifacts produced as a result of using equipment that cannot produce the clear recordings or images required. If you want to produce scientifically meaningful results, always go for the highest spec equipment you can afford!

ASSAP

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This blog does not contain ALL changes, just the major ones. Minor updates occur all the time.